Category Archives: PC(USA)

The PC(USA)’s Disability Concerns Consultants help people overcome barriers to full participation in church

Small, dedicated group draws gratitude for understanding inclusivity issues

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

Original Article:

Disability Concerns Consultant the Rev. Sue Montgomery speaks during a workshop at Big Tent. (Taylor Gash photo for Presbyterian News Service)

LOUISVILLE — If the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)’s cadre of Disability Concerns Consultants had a motto, it might be “We are small but mighty.”

That’s how Hunter Steinitz, an elder at Riverview United Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, describes the group, which consists of four consultants who each have a different specialty: people with mobility or accessibility issues, people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and people who are blind or have low vision.

Taking questions mostly by phone or email, the consultants help disabled people throughout the PC(USA) to feel welcome.

“The biggest thing I hear from people who call is that they are so grateful to have someone not only that is listening but someone who understands,” said the Rev. Sue Montgomery, who leads the consultancy team and serves as the mobility/accessibility consultant.

Steinitz interacts with the consultants as moderator of Presbyterians for Disability Concerns, a group that works for disability inclusion in ministries, communities and the PC(USA). She recently described the role of Disability Concerns Consultants this way:

“They are out there for congregations, for individuals, for people with disabilities (who are) looking to find faith communities that are inclusive and accessible,” she said. Consultants also “help anybody really looking to increase their inclusivity and their accessibility so that more people with varying abilities can be active and participate in the life of the church.”

The Rev. Dr. Bethany McKinney Fox (Contributed photo)

The Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) contracts with the Disability Concerns Consultants on a two-year cycle and recently hired hearing consultant Kathy McIndoe and the Rev. Dr. Bethany McKinney Fox, who’s the intellectual/developmental disabilities consultant. They join Montgomery and the Rev. Dr. Karen Moritz, the consultant for people who have low-vision or blindness.

“Working very closely with Sue to contract with her three Disability Consultant colleagues, I have become very aware of their importance to the Church’s ability to provide a safe, inclusive space for people living with disabilities,” said Lacey Hunter, a manager of Finance and Administration for PMA. “The lived experience, skill, and sensitivity they offer is crucial.”

Steinitz said she is “over the moon” that the consultancy team is up to full staff.

However, “I’m even more excited that most of our consultants are themselves people affected with the disability that is their subject matter expertise,” she said. “It’s so very important that people affected with the thing in question be the ones to provide the information because they live it every single day in a way that someone who just knows about it can’t quite match.”

The Rev. Dr. Karen Moritz (Contributed photo)

As a woman who’s been blind since birth, Moritz is sensitive to the issues that people with conditions that affect their vision face in church and community settings. “It’s kind of a thing close to my heart because I think the church still struggles to know how to include people with disabilities,” said Moritz, a former mission co-Worker and retired Nebraska pastor. “I know all of us want to be there to help make that process easier and less frightening for people.”

Examples of the questions and comments that come to the consultants include the following:

  • I have a gluten intolerance. How can I participate in Communion?
  • Help! I need curriculum help for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
  • Can you give me information about accessibility audits/checklists/surveys?
  • My presbytery meets in a church that’s not accessible. Don’t they get it?
  • How can our church begin a ministry with persons who are deaf?
  • What do I say to a child who asks, “Why me?”

Montgomery, an honorably retired pastor who has a birth defect that has limited the use of her legs, said the people they hear from often are “looking for answers to a situation they’re dealing with in their congregation.” They may be a parent with a child who has a disability, or they may be “a teacher in a confirmation class looking for curriculum that’s geared toward people with cognitive or intellectual disabilities.”

Consultants also hear from people who have financial questions such as “How do we receive grants?” she said.

In addition to having conversations with people who have such questions, the consultants and Presbyterians for Disability Concerns can provide people with various resources.

Hunter Steinitz (Photo by Annie O’Neill)

“We have a blog,” Steinitz said. “We also have a number of resources,” including Sunday school materials for multiple age groups, so “check out all of the things that we have to offer and if there is something that you think you need or want that you don’t see, let us know. We’re always developing new and better materials to help folks think about ways to better include people with all abilities.”

The overall effort “is about participating in worship in whatever way people are able and want to and it’s also about enabling individuals with disabilities to serve in leadership capacities,” said Steinitz, who has a rare condition called Harlequin ichthyosis that gives her skin a red appearance. “So, it is about being able to come through the door, but it’s also about preparing for them once they’re here.”

Fox, the founder of a new worshipping community called Beloved Everybody in Los Angeles, expresses the need for inclusivity this way: “Particularly in a tradition like ours, with such deep regard for theological scholarship and meaningful verbal liturgy, there can be folks in the Body of Christ whose leadership, gifts, and participation are left out, simply because they may not express themselves primarily through verbal language or abstract concepts,” she said. “I hope that in this role I can work alongside folks with intellectual and developmental disabilities, whenever possible, to broaden the imagination of some of our practices and create more ideological and practical space for the beautiful diversity of bodies and brains among all of us whom God has created.”

Fox added that she has been “so encouraged by … the faithful commitment that folks from all over the country have shown for making a way for everyone in their community to participate and thrive, even when things become complicated, or a situation arises that doesn’t have an easy answer.”

Montgomery, who lives in Pennsylvania, noted that it’s important for people who want to make their churches better for people with disabilities to take the time to seek input from them.

“Get to know the person,” she said. “Get to know the family. Get to know what” their ministry needs are, because “if you don’t, you can end up paying for an elevator that nobody can use or a ramp that can’t be used because it’s too steep.”

That’s where a consultant can be helpful, Moritz said. “I feel like my job is partly, especially with congregations, to allow them to have that conversation with me, and then hopefully get some tools about how they can have that conversation with people in their congregation.”

Moritz also can be helpful to those who need help beyond the church. As a former vocational rehabilitation counselor, “I have an awareness of some of the other services that are available outside the church,” she said. “… Sometimes, people just don’t know where to go to get the help that would improve their lives.”

For more information about Disability Concerns Consultants, go here. Additional information can be found here.

Taking the ‘plunge’ to improve basic sanitation and hygiene worldwide

Indiana youth group uses lighthearted approach to address serious health issue through the Presbyterian Giving Catalog

by Emily Enders Odom, Mission Communications | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Youth at First Presbyterian Church in Columbus, Indiana, have some good, clean fun playing plungerball. (Contributed photo)

ST. LOUIS — Although ballplayers have been swinging since ancient times — whether with bats, rackets, hands or clubs — recorded history is strangely silent about plungers.

Yes, plungers.

“Plungerball started about 20 years ago when I first started leading the youth group,” said Sunny Currier, youth leader at First Presbyterian Church of Columbus, Indiana, who was attending the 2024 APCE Annual Event, Jan. 24-27, in St. Louis with a group from the congregation. “It’s just like softball, but instead of a bat you use a plunger. It just became a thing in our youth group.”

But the mission-minded youth of the church are not all fun and games.

“They are interested in social justice,” said Stephanie Cunningham, who leads the youth group with Currier at the 400-member church in the Presbytery of Ohio Valley. “Whenever we have conversations about topical issues, I find them to be really engaged.”

And that’s where the Presbyterian Giving Catalog came in.

“We already knew about the Giving Catalog from the congregation,” said Jen Riddle, the church’s director of Children, Youth and Young Adult Ministries. “Our social justice committee was working with it.”

The Presbyterian Giving Catalog is filled with a wide variety of gifts that provide real and positive impact around the world.

The 2023–2024 edition offers a total of 43 items — large, small and in between ­— to fit every congregation’s missional interests and every individual’s budget. For ease of use, it is available both in print and online, in EnglishSpanish and Korean.

When committee members Mary Ann McCray and Vern Jorck approached the two youth leaders and Riddle with a proposal, they were ready and eager to answer not only God’s — but also nature’s — call.

“Mary Ann and Vern thought it would be a great idea for the children of the church to raise money for families of chickens,” recalled Currier. “When they asked us if we could get that going, I thought that our youth group could also do something. So, when I picked up the Giving Catalog and saw the latrine item, considering that our youth group’s favorite activity is plungerball, the decision was obvious.”

Youth ministry leaders at First Presbyterian Church in Columbus, Indiana, pose with Gracie the fish during last week’s APCE Annual Event. (Photo by Margaret Boone)

Currier said that reading the accompanying description in the Giving Catalog helped her to explain to the youth why latrines are important. According to a United Nations website, there are 3.5 billion people living without safe toilets.

The Giving Catalog explains that for women in particular, latrines promote dignity and safety, minimizing the risk of assault when they venture out alone in search of privacy.

“We explained to the youth that we have places to go to the bathroom, but not everybody does,” added Cunningham, who works for a domestic violence organization. “Even though it’s a heavy topic, you can pair it with something fun.”

And the teenagers — and youth leaders alike — had plenty of that.

The youth group kicked off their fundraising campaign in the late fall of 2023 with a table set up during coffee hour for the first two weeks of Advent and also as part of the church’s alternative giving fair.

Their creative displays gave a knowing nod and a wink to the latrine project by giving away Hershey’s Kisses, chocolate emoji-themed cupcakes and lemonade.

Currier had also found a broken chair in the recycling bin, which she outfitted with a toilet seat and mixing bowl to further raise awareness.

Youth at First Presbyterian Church in Columbus, Indiana, encouraged gifts to the Presbyterian Giving Catalog with this creative display. (Photo by Sunny Currier)

For the children’s chicken project, Riddle said she found instructions to make paper plate chickens on the Giving Catalog’s website, which they displayed.

“We also made our ‘time with children’ sermons during the first two weeks of Advent related to the Giving Catalog project, first the chickens and then the latrines,” she said. “It’s great to have something visual for the kids.”

The Giving Catalog offers a wealth of hands-on activities, including the “I Spy Activity,” complete with downloadable coloring sheets of a chicken, cow, piglet and veggies designed to help children better understand how their gifts make a difference for families and entire communities.

At the APCE Annual Event, adults like Cunningham also enjoyed the opportunity to color — for a cause. And for a prize.

APCE attendees who completed and returned their coloring sheets on day 1 of the annual event were awarded a Piggy Tote; on day 2, a Chicken Tote; and on day 3, Veggies.

Completing coloring sheets featuring items from the Presbyterian Giving Catalog gave APCE Annual Event-goers a welcome respite. (Photo by Margaret Boone)

“I appreciated the coloring because self-care is important,” said Cunningham. “I also wanted to win a chicken tote bag badly! It means something to me because our kids worked on that project. Anything with children and youth is close to my heart.”

Although the chicken and latrine projects were the church’s first experience with — and gifts to — the Catalog, the results from the congregation were remarkable.

“Because the church was so incredibly generous, we ended up with enough money for 15 1/4 families of chickens at $25 each, and 3 1/2 latrines at $350 each,” said Currier.

Riddle explained that when the church’s men’s group heard about funding the latrines, they were so moved by a need that they weren’t previously aware of that they made a gift of a whole latrine.

“It’s sad that people don’t have access to latrines for safety and privacy,” said 12-year-old Maddie. “I’m glad we can help them.”

To which Maddie’s best friend, 13-year-old Violet, added, “We take a lot of things for granted.”

Like First Presbyterian Church of Columbus, Indiana, please consider using the Presbyterian Giving Catalog to  spread hope and help create lasting, positive change around the world.

The original article is found here:

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Humanitarian Response in Israel/Palestine

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

We have witnessed the millions of people caught in the middle of the devastating
conflict between the government of Israel and Hamas. This is a dire humanitarian crisis and the loss of human life is unimaginable. Through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA), the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is providing assistance to those most vulnerable, and supporting partners in Palestine and Israel who are responding to the needs of their neighbors. Our biggest concern is the safety and care for those caught in the middle of this conflict and in need of humanitarian aid, no matter their religious beliefs, politics or nationality. Years of recovery lie ahead. Will you stand in the “GAP” for all affected by this conflict? — Give. Act. Pray.

GIVE: Gifts can be made online, by calling (800) 872-3283, by texting PDAIP to 41444, or by check made payable to Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) with “DR000081-Israel/Palestine” on the memo line. Mail to: Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), P.O. Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700.

ACT: Urge the U.S. government to advocate for an immediate cease-fire and the end of the blockade on Gaza to ensure urgent access to humanitarian aid, and call for engaging a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

PRAYDear God, We come before you with heavy hearts, burdened by the ongoing conflict in the land of Israel and Palestine. As we listen to the stories, and see the news of what is unfolding, we pray for all the people affected by this strife, for the innocent civilians, the children, and the families who endure the pain of violence and unrest. In times of darkness, help us remember that we are all your children, and that love and compassion can transcend the divisions and hate that lead to war. Grant us the strength to work tirelessly for a world where conflicts are resolved through dialogue, justice and respect for one another.

A grieving and shocked community gathers to pray

First Presbyterian Church of Uvalde, Texas, holds a moving hybrid prayer service

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service
Rev. Gini Norris-Lane, standing at the pulpit.

The Rev. Gini Norris-Lane, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Uvalde, Texas, opens a prayer service on Tuesday. (Screenshot)

LOUISVILLE — More than 200 people gathered online along with members and friends of First Presbyterian Church of Uvalde, Texas, Wednesday evening for a moving and powerful prayer service on the day following the shootings at Robb Elementary School in that community. View the 50-minute service here.

FPC’s pastor, the Rev. Gini Norris-Lane, told those gathered in person and online that “we come tonight because as those who follow Jesus, we don’t know what else to do but to gather in prayer.”

“This space is one of prayer, one of offering our hearts, our lives and the heaviness, worry, grief, confusion and shock — it’s to offer all that to God,” she said. “Even as we cry out, ‘We don’t know for how long, O Lord? What happened?’ We don’t understand, but we know God’s heart and God’s presence is large enough to hold all of us, to hold our whole community, all our families — to hold our whole world. I invite you to lift your hearts with me,” she said, “as we are called to worship.”

“It is our tradition to begin worship by remembering our baptism,” Norris-Lane said, pouring water from a pitcher into a baptismal font. “We are God’s beloved people. We know nothing in life or in death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. We know the spirit of God is poured out upon us … and upon our community. We know the grace and comfort of God welcomes us home.”

Then Norris-Lane prayed: “God of comfort and assurance, tonight we acknowledge our fear and our hurt and our worry. We pray for protection and yet we feel vulnerable. We live with hope … and yet we search for forgiveness … Even as we stand in the valley of the shadow of death, we are your people, gathered yet broken, forgiven and forgiving, searching, striving, hoping, praying, wondering. Sit with us in the midst of our hurts and our heartbreak. Guide us in these moments as we pray and in the days ahead, that we might do your will here on Earth as it is in heaven.”

Norris-Lane recalled preaching the Sunday before on Jesus’ words recorded in John 14:23-29: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’”

“This gift of peace is not given only when things are going well,” she said. “This gift is not given only when we can understand it or strive to make it happen. This gift of peace is a gift, as God’s grace is a gift, as the community of faith is a gift. And so, friends, this night, may the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” Those gathered in the sanctuary and across the country responded, “And also with you.” Worshipers in the sanctuary exchanged Christ’s peace with one another.

The Rev. Sallie Watson, general presbyter for Mission Presbytery, read selections from Psalm 25 the old fashioned way: Watson said a line and had those gathered repeat the line. Among the verses cited:

“Let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.”

“Relieve the troubles of my heart and bring me out of my distress. Consider my affliction and my troubles and forgive my sins.”

“It is in God’s presence we take refuge, isn’t it?” Norris-Lane said. “I wish we didn’t have to, not in this way. And yet I am also deeply grateful that when things like this happen, our refuge is found underneath God’s wings.”

She asked those present how many had received text messages asking how they are or whether everybody they know is OK. “How many … have shared anguish and anger and sadness and shock and confusion?” A ministry colleague shared three Bible passages with her, including Psalm 34:18, which promises God’s salvation for those crushed in spirit. “Friends … we know a community right now where the heaviness of this feels like a weight that’s going to flatten us some moments,” she said. “We lean into faith that God does heal the brokenhearted.”

John 14:1-4 was also shared with Norris-Lane. We have “the tools to find the way” and “a God who hears us whether we rage” with words not suitable for church “or whether we just don’t have the words. We have a God who knows and hears and holds — and more than that, we have a God who came to be with us,” she said. “Jesus understands sorrow and suffering. Jesus understands crying out to God with honest words … We have a God who understands, but more importantly is with us and was with every person in that school [Tuesday] and is with every family yesterday, today and tomorrow.

“When you forget, take a breath,” Norris-Lane suggested, “for God in Jesus is as close as our very next breath, even when we can’t grasp what that means.”

The final verse shared was Matthew 5:4: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

“Hopefully, friends, there will be solutions for communities and schools to be safe,” Norris-Lane said. “But honestly, as the pastor of this place, what I want to say tonight to all of you is that path is down the road a little ways. Tonight we gather to comfort one another, to grieve, to pray and to question … What I know is the power of coming together in community reminds us that as the people of God, we not only rejoice together, but we grieve together. We suffer together. We hold onto each other together.”

Those in the sanctuary were invited to write their prayers on slips of paper for Norris-Lane and two colleagues in ministry to pray aloud. Among them:

  • Blessings on all the medical professionals who have served during this tragedy
  • Prayers for children and the burden they will carry for the rest of their lives
  • All teachers and students heading into the summer with heavy hearts instead of joy
  • For caregivers to keep going
  • For three people who lost loved ones
  • For teachers who want nothing more than to keep their kids safe and to send them home to their families
  • For God’s peace for all of Uvalde
  • For wisdom for parents on how to walk this road with our children, including what to say and how to say it
  • The strength to love our enemies
  • For the older folk in the community who sense that life in Texas and in the nation has changed dramatically. “Hear them and us,” Norris-Lane asked God, “as we wonder how we can breathe hope again.”
  • For God’s Spirit “to break in to provide all that we need and even more.”

“No matter where you go this night or who you are with, know that you are not alone,” Norris-Lane said during her benediction. “No matter whether you have the words to pray or you struggle to find them, know you are heard. And know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you are held in God’s love and wrapped in God’s care and given God’s grace just for the moment ahead — every single moment.”

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

Parliamentary Procedure for Leaders – Free Webinar

Year of Leader Formation: Investing in Ruling Elders and Deacons
Parliamentary Procedure for Leaders – A Webinar
July 14, 2021; 7-8:30 pm (eastern) – Registration Deadline July 6, 2021
Tricia Dykers-Koenig

PC(USA) ruling elders and deacons have responsibilities as leaders in Christ’s church. Whether you serve as a moderator or as a participant, your call will involve meetings conducted by parliamentary procedure – usually Robert’s Rules of Order. Most Presbyterians have learned about parliamentary procedure through observation during meetings; during this Year of Leader Formation webinar, you can expect to learn more about the theological connections between parliamentary procedure and our Book of Order and gain skills to help you participate more confidently and effectively. You will have an opportunity during the registration process to name questions you would like to see addressed.

This event is provided for free for participants and is funded through your per capita dollars. It does not come without cost, however. Knowing the diversity of language within the PC(USA), this webinar will be provided in several languages with interpretation based on requests made through the registration process. As a result, there is a registration deadline of July 6, 2021, in order to be able to have time to arrange for those services. This event will be recorded and will be available in English following the event.

Read More & Register on the PC(USA) site.

COVID-19: Finding Information and Resources

Updated: 02/05/2021

Council Guidance on In-Person Worship 2.5.2021 – Click Here

All Presbytery Council guidance is collected here.
Resources for Congregations may be found here.

Coronavirus/COVID-19 Resources for Congregations and Members

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have compiled a series of resources for congregational leaders and members. It’s available here:

COVID-19 Legislation Overview: A Guide for Presbyterian Churches and Ministers

OGA web mapping tool to show COVID-19 confirmed cases

Additional Sources of information:

Check these sites regularly, as information is subject to change.

224th General Assembly to be conducted online only

Committee on the Office of the General Assembly votes for shortened assembly

Rick Jones | Office of the General Assembly – April 21, 2020


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For the first time in the history of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the denomination’s General Assembly will be held online only. The Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a plan for a reduced assembly gathering that will require everyone involved — commissioners, advisory delegates, corresponding members and staff — to participate in a digital assembly.

Read the full article on the PC(USA) website